Mobile Digital Devices (General Information)

A mobile digital device is defined as an electronic device that provides portable computing power.

A mobile digital device is defined as an electronic device that provides portable computing power.  Examples of such devices include (but aren’t limited to);

  • Laptops and notebook computers
  • Tablet computers
  • Smartphones
  • Phablets
  • Wearable technology (e.g. smart watches)
  • e-Readers
  • Smart cameras
  • GPS devices

Each of the above devices have some characteristics that are common to them and help to define what a mobile digital device is:

  • Small Form Factor:  Common definitions state that a mobile digital device should be small enough to be hand-held and less that about a kilogram in weight.  This definition would restrict the definition of a mobile digital device to items such as smartphones, PDAs and GPS devices.  Others suggest that mobile devices can be larger, but that it must still be possible to carry them easily and thus maintaining the concept of being portable.  This extends the former definition to include devices such as notebooks, laptops and similar.
  • Wireless Network Connectivity:  It’s commonly agreed that a mobile digital device must have at least one interface that allows it to connect to a form of wireless network.  This can include Wi-Fi, mobile (cellular) networks or other technologies that can access the internet or similar data networks.
  • Local Non-removable Data Storage:  In the majority of cases, mobile digital devices make use of  eMMC or, in older devices, other solid state storage or flash memory to store data.
Laptop & Notebook Computers are typically small, compact and lightweight computer systems that enable them to be physically relocated easily, often through the use of a case or bag.  By definition, they use standard operating systems, the same as their non-portable desktop counterparts and will often have the same level of connectivity through standard interfaces.  However, laptop and notebook computers have specialised hardware that is specifically designed for use in smaller portable systems and, unlike their desktop counterparts, is not easily interchangeable.
Depending on the device specifications and manufacturer, laptops and notebooks can vary by the following factors;
  • The size of the device.  Notebooks are generally smaller than laptops and, due to the limits imposed by their physical size, often have fewer features than laptops.
  • The display size, quality and technology used.
  • The keyboard size, including the number of present keys. Many smaller laptops and notebooks do not carry a numeric keypad normally found to the right side of most desktop computer keyboards.
  • The type and style of pointing device (e.g. touchpad rather than mouse)
  • The type of power supply and battery used.
  • The length of available battery life.  Many manufacturers are constantly looking to develop batteries that can last longer, thereby extending usable worktime between charges.
  • Length of battery charge time.  Again, manufactuers are looking to find ways to shorten the amount of time it takes to charge the batteries in mobile devices.  Some new devices, released towards the end of 2016, boast charge times as short as 15 minutes.
  • Connections for external peripherals and devices.  Many notebooks and some laptops have limited peripheral connections available to them, largely due to the limit in available physical size.
  • The location of the power button.  Often located in a place where it cannot be inadvertently switched on inside a case or bag.
  • Availability of additional drives, such as optical drives within these systems.  This is also, to some extent, due to available physical space.  In many situations, particularly in notebooks, 5.25 inch form factor optical drive is too large to fit into such a computer system.
An Alienware Gaming Laptop
 Tablets are mobile devices that include a touchscreen display, a virtual keyboard and make use of flash memory (almost always eMMC) for storing data. Tablets can run different operating systems depending upon their manfuacturer and come in a variety of sizes. ranging from small-notebook sized devices that operate in a similar fashion to a smart phone, right up to those that look like a more traditional laptop.
Examples of tablet operating systems:
  • iOS is developed by Apple and runs on devices such as the I-Pad and I-Pod Touch. (Note: The I-Pod touch is not considered to be a tablet even though it carries features similar to that of a tablet.  This is because of it’s size and general functionality)
  • Android OS is developed by Google and used in a wide variety of different mobile devices including a number of tablets (as well as smartphones). Some examples are the Samsung Galaxy range, the Kindle Fire and the Toshiba Excite.
  • Microsoft Windows (7, 8, 8.1, 8.1 RT and now Windows 10) is used on a number of Windows-based tablets and devices.
  • Blackberry OS is used on the Blackberry Playbook.
The iPad (Left) and Kindle Fire (Right)
 Smartphones are mobile digital devices that combine the functionality of a mobile communication device with a wide range of other features including; media players, GPS navigation, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and digital cameras.  A wide range of additional applications are available for the specially designed operating systems that enable even more extension to the functionality of the devices.  Smartphone technology is evolving at a very fast pace, with new and improved devices being released on a regular basis to keep up with the ever increasing demand for fast, mobile technologies.
The most common smartphone operating systems (and devices) are;
  • iPhones are as combination of mobile communication device, internet gadget and widescreen iPod which utilises the iOS operating system.  Apart from the more common funtions described above, latest iPhones also have video conferencing features and a voice controlled software assistant called Siri.
  • Android Smarphones have very similar capabilities as those of their Apple counterparts, providing a wide range of funtionality.  However, the Android OS makes it possible to run multiple applications simultaneously without any interruption.  Some of the more common Android based smartphones are the Samsung Galaxy, HTC and the Sony Xperia ranges.
  • Windows Smartphones run on the Windows Phone OS, developed and maintained by the MIcrosoft Corporation.  Windows Phone features include a range of Microsoft Office applications and Outlook Mobile, as well as web browsing, media players and other advanced features.
A range of smartphones
Phablets are a mobile digital device that is considered to be larger than a smart phone yet smaller than a tablet.  Phablets are generally thought to have  ascreen size of between 5 and 7 inches, diagonally, from corner to corner.  This size of screen lends itself more to multimedia viewing and web browsing moreso than that of it’s smartphone relatives and some phablets include a stylus for drawing or writing.
The term Phablet was originally introduced following the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note in 2011.  However, the term itself has slowly fallen into less use and is now being phased out as devices now have a tendency to be considered either smartphones or tablets, rather than a cross between the two.
A Samsung Galaxy Note ‘Phablet’ and some of it’s accessories
Wearable Technology is made up of smaller mobile digital devices that are designed to be worn on top of or underneath a persons clothing.  They include such items as;
  • Smart Watches which are multipurpose devices, often  running computing applications and utilising wireless technology to connect to smartphones.  This enables them to alert the wearer to telephone calls, messages or other missed alerts.
  • Fitness Monitors include such capabilties as activity trackers and, similar to smart watches, often connect to the users smartphone in order to provide detailed information such as the wearers heart rate.
  • Various Glasses and Headsets that provide hands-free and voice activated capabilities.
A Smart Watch
Smart Cameras are digital cameras that additionally offer apps for editing, organising and storing photographs.  They include a processor flash memory (often eMMC) and often include cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity (in some cases, both).
e-Readers are a mobile digital device that are primarily designed for reading any number of digital publications such as e-books.  The majority of e-readers are of a similar physical size to that of a tablet, but they very often have a much more limited feature set and is reflected in the cost of such devices.  e-Readers can hold hundreds of publications at one time and often have enhanced readability to support reading in bright sunlight, as well as a significantly longer battery life than that of their tablet relatives.
GPS (Global Positioning System) devices are a mobile digital device that provide navitgational services to any specified destination.  Modern GPS devices can have a varied feature set with newer models including capabilites such as hands free cellular calling, real time traffic information and integration with contacts and social media.
A range of GPS devices

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